“It’s time” for Sweden and Finland to join NATO

The head of NATO is in Turkey to try to convince Ankara of the urgency of Sweden and Finland joining the Atlantic Alliance. But Turkey is still dragging its feet. “I still think it’s time now to ratify [l’adhésion] from both Finland and Sweden,” Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday during a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The Secretary General of NATO for the first time on Tuesday publicly raised the possibility of Finland entering the Alliance before Sweden. However, he said he was seeking to obtain “as soon as possible” the last ratifications from Turkey and Hungary for the two countries.

Sweden has not fulfilled its obligations, according to Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested in early February that the Turkish Parliament could ratify Finland’s membership without that, jointly filed, of Sweden, which remains blocked by Ankara.

“It would not be realistic to say that Sweden has fully fulfilled its obligations arising from the memorandum of understanding” signed in June between Turkey, Sweden and Finland, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed on Thursday. He reiterated that Turkey was ready to “assess Finland’s NATO membership process separately from that of Sweden”. Turkey accuses Sweden, among other things, of harboring Kurdish militants and sympathizers whom it qualifies as “terrorists”, in particular those of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey and Hungary hold back

The leaders of NATO’s 30 member countries took the decision to invite Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance at a summit in Madrid in July 2022. Thirty countries signed the accession protocols and 28 the have ratified. Only Turkey and Hungary have not yet had their agreement ratified.

The decision in January by the Swedish authorities to authorize a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, during which a Koran was burned, provoked the ire of Ankara which put a stop to the negotiations in notably postponing a tripartite meeting scheduled for February.

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